In my opinion, symptoms, typically, do not occur within a vacuum but, rather, within an ‘n’-dimensional, multi-latticed, multi-tiered, multi-multipled context!
This multi-dimensioned context provides a crucial staging ground from within which, and out from which, the adaptive meaning, purpose and value of any given “symptom” becomes readily identifiable and, eventually, understandable, albeit, relative to its experienced context.
The context is, simultaneously, one which is predicated upon a certain “consensual reality,” as well as, the “subjective experiential reality” of the individual (or group) afflicted by their unique or particular symptoms.
Years ago, it occurred to me that an “effect” could, theoretically, be a result of a necessary condition in conjunction with one or more requisite sufficient conditions.
I also realized that an “effect” could also, theoretically, be a result of several sufficient conditions, none of which alone, but two or more of which in varying combinations might potentiate a given outcome and, effectively, substitute for, or trigger, the expected necessary condition.
Then it all became even more clear!
Further consideration suggested that by systematically delineating relevant contexts, respectively and collectively, one could, again, in theory, always makes sense out of virtually any symptomatic datum, analogous to “figure-ground” constructs in Gestalt Psychology, so that by removing either one, the other is entirely bereft of its contextual relevance and simply cannot be responsibly interpreted or understood.
Consequently, while writing my doctoral dissertation, I borrowed six disparate prefixes from multiple authors across multiple disciplines and made-up a semi-newly-minted word to always remind myself that symptoms should only be evaluated within which and out from which the context(s) they arise and obtain or else one can pretend to diagnose and treat them but without any real clue as to what needs to be tended to and, if appropriate, remedied.
The made-up word was: “psychobiosociogeopoliticoeconomic” (or, in more intelligible chunks, “psycho-bio-socio-geo-politico-economic”).
“Psychobiosocial” is actually a word coined by Adolph Meyer, a prominent psychiatrist whose work was influential during the first half of the 20th century to acknowledge psychological, biological and social variables which affect human behavior. “Geopoliticoeconomic” reflects geographical, political and economic variables which also affect human behavior.
If you consider my provisional working hypothesis is that “everything is connected to everything,” then with just a little thought and creativity on your part you can easily conjure additional prefixes to add to mine.
For example, the contextual variables of life, death and spirit might playfully be formulated, tongue-in-cheek, as “vivomuertospirito” (or “vivo-muerto-spirito”).
Perhaps, the contextual variables of chemistry, astronomy and physics in our lives might result in a new word: “chemoastrophysics” (or “chemo-astro-physics”).
And what about the contribution to the understanding of a person’s life by looking at the role played by their religion, ethnicity and nationality: “religioethnonationality” (or “religio-ethno-nationality”)?
When “everything is connected to everything,” then the possibilities are endless!
“Psychobiosociogeopoliticoeconomic” is a powerful mnemonic device I utilize to remind myself neither to be assumptive, nor to be presumptive, about anything, about anyone or about any explanatory hypothesis which appeals to me and to always remember that “symptoms do not occur within a vaccuum but rather within an ’n’-dimensional, multi multipled ‘psychobiosociogeopoliticoeconomic’ context.”
With this “frame of reference,” it takes a great deal of “blood, sweat and tears” (i.e., hard work) to get to the heart of what is the meaningful, relevant and useful matter for someone and to approximate something of an emerging and evolving understanding as to who they really and truly are at their elemental core!
“Psychobiosociogeopoliticoeconomic” reminds me to be very patient, very, very humble and very, very, very respectful.
Author Note: Dr. Larry B. Gelman is a Clinical Psychologist and a Personal Mentor
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